A pair of education leaders in the Beaufort Delta say a political shift in what is taught in Alberta classrooms is behind a curriculum review underway at the GNWT.
A spokesperson for Education, Culture and Employment confirmed the GNWT is conducting a regular review of its curriculum and was exploring the approach of western provinces and territories, with a keen eye on British Columbia.
“The B.C. curriculum is a modern curriculum and one where Indigenous worldviews seems to be embraced and encouraged,” said ECE spokesperson Melissa Bannister. “The renewal of JK-12 curriculum in the NWT will require the input of Indigenous Governments, Education Authorities and the Northwest Territories Teachers Association as well as other key stakeholders.”
Beaufort Delta District Education Council assistant superintendent Devin Roberts informed board members of the plan during the second day of the Feb. 17-18 BDDEC annual general meeting.
“It isn’t official yet. A decision has not been finally made, but it is something you should probably be aware of at this stage,” he told them.
Also still in the works is how the change would occur, he said. A potential three-year rollout, with a progression of grades switched over each year, has been floated.
Roberts added the underlying logic behind making the change has been the direction the United Conservative Party government has taken the education system in Alberta.
“It’s been disappointing from a territorial perspective,” said Roberts. “It’s not very inclusive of Indigenous perspectives or Indigenous ways of life. It’s very conservative. I don’t think it’s reflective of what we value here in the territories and certainly not what we value here (at BDDEC.)
“B.C. did a big curriculum revamp recently. It’s all public. It’s all online and competency based. We think it’s great – we were asking about it two years ago, and I think this shift in Alberta has brought it to the forefront.”
Several delegates to the AGM voiced their support for the move and no one voiced any opposition to the idea.
Roberts noted a lot of the current efforts to Indigenize the curriculum was to move it away from the European-centric curriculum the current Alberta government was championing.
He added he expected moving to the B.C. curriculum would eliminate much of the requirement to re-work it for Northern students as it was far more sensitive to Indigenous issues.
“B.C.’s curriculum aligns much nicer with our inclusive schooling direction,” said BDDEC’s other assistant superintendent, Richard Mckinnon. “As well as concerns with Early Childhood Education, their program actually weighs on an outcome based on expectations that are much more aligned with what we want to see.
“Whereas Alberta is shifting away from Indigenous content and is actually being not representative of all, B.C. is much closer aligned to what we want to see in the future.”
Alberta’s curriculum has been revised twice in recent memory. First the New Democratic Party announced an overhaul in 2016, promising better inclusion of different cultural perspectives and consulting with over 400 teachers and taking in feedback online from tens of thousands of Albertans. The updated curriculum included lessons on what construes as consent in regards to physical contact and involved parent and teacher consultations.
However, the then-opposition UCP accused the NDP of sneaking ideology into the school system – without ever presenting any evidence. After winning the 2019 election, the new conservative government threw the curriculum out and shut out the Alberta Teacher’s Association from consultations into the new curriculum.
Documents leaked in October of 2020 revealed ideas being floated for Alberta’s new curriculum include removing any mention of residential schools from lessons and requiring children to memorize Bible verses.
Bannister added that while explorations of other curriculum were underway, no decision had been made yet and the GNWT did not have an official position on whether to move to B.C.’s curriculum or not.
The GNWT currently uses portions of Alberta’s curriculum through a memorandum of understanding. Using the curriculum does not cost the territory any money.
During a March 9 press conference, Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the idea of the NWT straying away from Alberta’s curriculum was a “completely inaccurate speculation.”
When asked about the matter during the NWT legislative session March 11, Education Minister RJ Simpson said he had been mulling over a new curriculum for quite some time.
“It’s been a year to the day that I’ve been talking about renewing the curriculum,” he said. “However, we are nowhere near making a decision.”